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What is a ‘life of luxury’ now?



What is a ‘life of luxury’ now?
From rarity, opulence and status to today’s more nuanced ‘luxury essentialism’, the story of all things ‘luxe’ has evolved over the centuries. Cath Pound explores how.


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Luxury as a concept

Luxury as a concept

Luxury, as a concept, seems inherently rooted in materialism. It involves the owning of beautiful, often superfluous things.

In a world where natural resources are declining, and over-consumption is harming our environment, it may be possible to move towards a more meaningful definition of luxury.




The immaterial dimension of luxury

Today's luxury is about rediscovering an immaterial dimension - time, space, and experiences.

Time and travel, which seem very precious today, were pivotal in the evolution of luxury. Since Antiquity, contact with other nations fuelled a desire for rare and exotic items. When the West discovered Japanese ceramics for example, it realized that luxury and refinement could co-exist with simplicity and purity.



The art of luxurious living in history

  • In 18th-Century France, a taste for luxurious objects blended with the idea of the art of living. The rise in the power of individualism and new forms of artistry made French elites enjoy the creation of pleasing living environments.
  • In the 19th Century, the demand for luxury goods expanded, as the middle class desired to provide itself with comforts. The industrial revolution allowed for the production of every item they could want. Travel became a major form of luxury.
  • In the 20th Century, luxury became more aspirational due to the expansion of advertising and popular media. By the 1980s, luxury became about purchasing expensive things with only a surface value to gain a competitive advantage in the world.
  • Today, paying attention to the environmental and ethical cost of such consumption, the luxury industry is focusing on personal experiences over personal luxury, and a move away from excess and towards luxury essentialism.



A shift to luxury essentialism

There is a shift from ownership to only using things that have personal value. You will have nice, well-made objects around you to enhance the things which are important to you, such as a beautiful set of crockery for someone who loves cooking for friends.

In a decisive move away from disposable culture, the longevity of luxury items is becoming an important part of their appeal.




Why Black Friday Is So Popular

Why Black Friday Is So Popular

Black Friday is the conventional starting day for the holiday shopping season.

Historically, it’s also been the best day to find great deals on the year’s hottest toys, gam...

The 20th Century: The Parade of Sponsors

  • In the middle of the 20th century, Thanksgiving parades drew crowds in most major cities and in some of the smaller towns too. Many were sponsored by local or national retailers. Back in the day, that meant mostly department stores.
  • By attaching their names to the most visible events on the preholiday calendar, department stores reminded their customers that they were open for business in the coming holiday shopping season.
  • Over time, Thanksgiving parades came to mark the unofficial start of that season.

The Modern Holiday Shopping Calendar

  • Thanksgiving fell on the last Thursday of November since 1863 until 1939, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday of November (starting with 1941), influenced by the request of a powerful coalition of retailers.
  • When Thanksgiving fell on November 30, it left only 24 holiday shopping days and this worried retailers who reasoned that busy holiday shoppers would simply shop less in a shorter season.
  • They promoted the idea that a longer holiday shopping season would be good for the American economy.

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Attraction Towards Stuff

Attraction Towards Stuff

Right from childhood, we are attracted to things that we can call our own, stuff like clothes, toys, bags, and books, later morphing into adult toys like cars, jewellery, furniture, Playstations an...

Kids And Possessions

  • In children, attachment to certain objects like a favourite toy or blanket is common.
  • They can rebel or move to tears when made to part with the object they are attached to, as a deep bond is formed.
  • The object aids the kid’s transition to adulthood and is more common when they are not attached to their parents.

Attachment To Objects: Mid Adolescence

Being happy with material goods peaks during the formative years, when new experiences make the teenager’s already fragile self-esteem fluctuate. A sense of self-worth and respect makes them less prone to attachment towards materialist objects.

Pre-teen girls identify so much with material objects like clothes, that if they exchange it with each other, it feels that they have shared their identity.

A slow change from home to office

A slow change from home to office

The office's history shows how our work has changed and how work's physical spaces respond to cultural, technological, and social influences

  • During m...

At first, the office was an activity before it was a place

  • Before the modern office, monasteries introduced timekeeping to the monk's daily routines.
  • Later, the office was understood to be a factory-like environment.
  • Work was depicted as a series of tasks that could be rationalised, standardised and calculated into an efficient production machine.

How changes in technology influenced the office

  • The telegraph, telephone, and dictating machine changed the concept of work and office design as telecommunications meant office could be separate from factories and warehouses and differentiate between white and blue-collar workers.
  • While these technologies made a distributed workforce possible, American offices became more centralised.
  • Online connectivity potentially ensures a move away from the office to working from home.